Sunday, March 02, 2008

Daily Om: Connect with the present

This is today's Daily Om from Tricycle, a reminder that being present is the primary goal of daily practice.

Connect with the present

It is often the case that whatever we are doing, be it sitting, walking, standing, or lying, the mind is frequently disengaged from the immediate reality and is instead absorbed in compulsive conceptualization about the future or past. While we are walking, we think about arriving, and when we arrive, we think about leaving. When we are eating, we think about the dishes, and as we do the dishes, we think about watching television.

This is a weird way to run a mind. We are not connected with the present situation, but we are always thinking about something else. Too often we are consumed with anxiety and cravings, regrets about the past and anticipation for the future, completely missing the crisp simplicity of the moment.

- B. Alan Wallace, Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

This is a great point that Wallace makes, as usual.

One way that I practice this in my daily life is when I am working out with weights. There are few other times in my life when being fully in the present moment is so crucial. A failure to do so can get me hurt very badly.

While focusing the mind with 365 lbs on my back is pretty easy, comparatively speaking, it can be harder to do so when I am with my clients. Still, this is another opportunity for me to practice being present. My clients can tell if I am not present -- and they are paying me to be fully there with them.

Generally, I am counting reps, checking their form, or changing weights. But more than anything else, I am listening ... being present to their stories about their lives. I ask questions, share my own experience when appropriate, but mostly I simply listen with as much presence as possible.

This, it seems to me, is the key to therapy. My best therapists listened well and asked good questions. Sometimes, they offered suggestions or insights, but as often as not, the insights came from me simply through thinking out loud with a good listener.

How much better might our relationships be if we simply applied this skill there? Skillful listening and being fully present are two of the most important things we can do with our partners. We all want to know that we are heard and understood, and that when we are with the one person who means most to us in the world, that person is fully with us, not creating a grocery list or planning tomorrow's wardrobe.

Finally, in the realm of relationships, how great would your sex life be if you were fully present for every moment of that shared experience? No thinking about what to do next, no focus on climaxing, no worries about technique or performance -- just full presence in each breath, each kiss, each touch of skin on skin.

No matter what we are doing, connecting with the present is as good as it gets.

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